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Plastic Free July: I’ve Made My Pledge, What’s Yours?

When it comes to making a positive contribution in the world, nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. How big or how small that something is, well, that depends. It depends on so many things: the time we have available, our family commitments, energy levels, where we live, the resources available to us, and more.

Better to make just a single change than to do nothing, simply because others are doing more and we feel that our contribution is small and insignificant. Millions of small contributions add up to make a huge positive impact.

If we can only make one or two changes, then let’s go ahead and make those changes, and be proud of what we are doing.

But let’s not get complacent.

Usually I say: whatever we can do, that is enough. And I do believe that to be true. But I also think there’s a time and a place to re-evaluate and ask ourselves the question: is there something more that I could do?

I think Plastic Free July is the perfect opportunity.

I first took part in Plastic Free July in 2012. (The challenge, if you’ve somehow missed hearing about this great campaign, is to refuse all single-use – or even better, all – plastics for the month of July.) Of course, that first year was a challenge for me (but isn’t that the point?!). The second year wasn’t without its trials. But by the third year, I’d pretty much got my plastic habit under control.

I had two choices. I could sit there smugly, applauding myself on how far I’ve come. Or I could look at my current routines and habits, ask myself: is there any room for improvement?

Guess what?! Unsurprisingly, there is always room for improvement! Nobody’s perfect. Firstly there are always the exceptions that can be tackled. Then there’s the stuff that was too hard or not possible last year – maybe something has changed since then?

Even when things seem good enough, there is always room to adjust and do things slightly better.

When we fostered and later adopted our greyhound last July, I wrote about whether we could have a dog and be zero waste. My biggest challenge was and still is dog food. We have been buying the big 20kg plastic bags of dog food. I’d love to make my own, but when I first looked into it, I ended up feeling overwhelmed. I put it on the backburner.

On the backburner is where it is still sitting.

At the time, it wasn’t a cop-out. Having a dog was something completely new to both myself and my husband, and we needed time to adjust. But 11 months on, it’s fair to say it’s time to revisit this.

Buying processed dog food, made from industrially produced meat, produced overseas, and sold in a plastic bag; that pretty much goes against everything I believe in and everything I want to support.

It was a good short-term solution. But it’s in danger of becoming a longer-term one, because I’ve let myself get complacent.

So for Plastic Free July this year, I am setting myself the challenge to start making my own dog food. We are lucky that our greyhound is the least fussy eater on the planet. I’m a little bit terrified of the extra responsibility, but I can read and research – and I have enough common sense.

By the 1st July, I’ll have something in place.

It might not work. It might be a terrible disaster. Our greyhound might suddenly become the world’s fussiest eater, or it might not agree with him (greyhounds have sensitive stomachs), or it might take so much time to source the ingredients and make that it simply isn’t practical.

But I will never know unless I try.

Isn’t that what a challenge is all about?

Talking of challenges… now I’m going to challenge you.

If you’re new to living with less waste, then I’d recommend giving Plastic Free July a go this year.

If you’ve been pursuing the plastic-free lifestyle for a while, I’m going to challenge you to look at everything you currently do, and find just one more thing to try, to revisit, or improve. Plastic Free July is one month: that’s 31 days to give something a go. That’s 31 days to build a new habit, research alternatives and try something new.

At the end of the 31 days, you might decide that it was all a bit too hard, and you’re not ready. That’s okay, if you tried and gave it your best shot. However… you might find that these new habits aren’t nearly as hard as you thought, and you’ve made a change that you know you will stick to. How great would that be?

There’s never a bad time to embrace change, but the great thing about doing it in July is that there will be plenty of other people embracing making changes too. When I say plenty, I mean a lot. In 2016 over 1 million people took part, and 2017 is set to be even bigger. There’s nothing like doing a challenge with others to feel motivated, and being part of a movement only makes that even greater.

The other important step to making changes is to tell others what you’re planning. I’ve told you my Plastic Free July goal, and now it’s your turn. In the comments, take a minute to pledge your commitment for the month of July. Shout it loud and proud! Let’s see what positive changes we can bring about this July and onwards :)

Seriously, I want to hear from you! Is this your first Plastic Free July and if so, are you taking the no single-use plastics pledge or the no-plastics-at-all pledge? Are you returning for another year and what would you like to change this year for a month? Are there any sneaky bad habits you’d like to shake once and for all? Anything else you’d like to add? Declare all in the comments below!

Plastic-Free For Absolute Beginners: 7 Tips for Getting Started

When we’re new to living plastic-free or zero waste, just looking at the journey ahead of us can seem a little… daunting. On one hand, we’re eager to make changes, and excited to be making a positive impact on ourselves and the planet. But what first steps to take?

There are so many options it can almost feel overwhelming. If you’re feeling like that, don’t panic! I’m here to help.

If you’re keen to get going with plastic-free or zero waste living but don’t know where to start, here’s a handy guide to help you on your way.

1. Don’t throw anything away!

Before you begin, don’t just throw all your plastic in the bin, or dump it at the charity shop. Whilst it can be tempting to “begin again with a clean slate”, it creates a huge amount of waste. If your main motivation for embracing plastic-free living and zero waste is to reduce waste, this is completely counter-productive.

In time you’ll be able to decide whether you can re-purpose things, pass them on to someone who will use them, or use them up yourself. You’ll learn the best way to dispose of things responsibly. You’ll also know whether you need to replace them.

Plastic-free and zero waste living is a journey, not a race.

2. Remember change takes time, and the more time you spend on it, the faster you’ll see results.

Going plastic-free or zero waste is about changing habits, and change takes time. Like any habit, if you practice every day you’ll get there faster. The more you practice, the easier it will get.

Yes, you can go plastic-free or zero waste and work full time, have children and pursue other hobbies. You will just make slower progress.

Take into account how much time to have to spend learning new habits, and set yourself realistic goals. If your expectations exceed what’s likely or practical for you to achieve, you’ll end up disappointed and disheartened.

3. Go to your regular stores with new eyes.

Bulk stores (especially those that have been established with waste-free and plastic-free living in mind like The Source Bulk Foods) are an ideal place to buy packaging-free groceries, but in the beginning, don’t rule out your regular stores completely.

Instead, take a little extra time, and go to your regular stores and walk up and down every aisle, looking at every single product. Look for products in glass, cardboard, or paper.

When we shop, we often operate on autopilot. We don’t browse the overwhelming choice of products. We tend to buy the one we always buy, or we choose what’s on offer. Now is your chance to look with a different parameter – plastic-free.

You might find there are more alternatives than you realised.

4. Get your reusables ready.

When you first go zero waste or plastic-free grocery shopping, take more reusables than you think you’ll need. As well as reusable shopping bags, take reusable produce bags, glass jars, and glass or plastic containers with lids of various sizes.

Almost everyone has reusable shopping bags; if you don’t, I recommend looking for natural fibres rather than plastic ones that will eventually end up in landfill.

There are many options for reusable bags, and if you sew you can make your own out of old net curtains or bed sheets. If you can’t sew, handmade reusable produce bags can be found via Etsy, an online marketplace for people who do know how to sew.

If you don’t have glass Pyrex or stainless steel food containers, consider using plastic in the short term until you know which sizes work best for you. Glass and stainless steel is an investment, so knowing what you need is helpful before you splash out. If you’re ready to invest, this directory of online zero waste and plastic-free stores might be helpful.

(There are other bits and pieces you might find you need, like cutlery, a water bottle and a coffee cup. You can find the day-to-day reusables I carry in my handbag here.)

5. Look for bulk stores, Farmers Markets and health stores in your local area.

Before you step out the door, it makes sense to look on the internet. Are there any bulk stores close by? Are there any cooperatives that might have food in bulk? What about bakeries or farm shops? Italian grocery stores often have dry goods in bulk, and well-stocked deli counters. Check when local Farmers Markets run, and where.

You can call places to find out if they have a bulk section, but nothing beats going to have a look. Even if bulk isn’t an option, there might be plastic-free and lower waste solutions. Just having a browse can open your mind to some of the potential.

6. One change at a time.

Rather than change everything at once, focus on one thing at a time. It makes sense to tackle things in the order they need replacing. With food, fresh produce comes first, like fruit and vegetables, milk, and bread. Then there’s longer life fresh stuff like yoghurt and cheese. Then there’s dry goods, and it might be a few months before you need alternatives for some of these.

The same will apply in the bathroom, the cleaning cupboard, the wardrobe and the rest of the house.

Work on replacing things as you need to.

7. Join the community!

Zero waste and plastic-free living is a movement, and a movement needs people! You will find it so much easier and far more rewarding if you connect with others on the journey. You’ll be able to share ideas, vent frustrations, ask questions and guide others.

Not everyone has the support of family and friends, at least not at first. Finding a community of like-minded people will give you a strong support network to keep you motivated.

If you can find people locally to connect with, that’s awesome (if you don’t know where to look, the Transition Town movement is a good starting point). If not, there is plenty of opportunity online – and these groups will welcome you with open arms!

Remember, no-one has all the answers on the first day! Plastic-free and zero waste living is a journey. Enjoy the process, have fun, and know that everything you’re doing makes a difference.

Now I’d love to hear from you! If you’re a beginner, is there anywhere in particular that you’re stuck? Anything you’ve been struggling with? If you’re a veteran, are there any other tips you’d like to add? Anything you think I’ve missed out? Any other comments? Please share your thoughts below!

Where to Find Zero Waste + Plastic Free Essentials Online

As someone who does her best to discourage shopping, I’ve put off writing this guide. For years. Yet I’m regularly asked where to find certain eco-friendly products. And yes: there are certain items that make living plastic-free and zero waste easier. The purpose of this website is to make it easier for people to live more sustainable, ethical, plastic-free and zero waste lives. Very occasionally, that means stuff.

I’ve put this resource together to help anyone looking for zero waste or plastic-free alternatives. I would always encourage everyone to use what they have first, and to look for second-hand options before buying anything new. Borrowing things from friends to establish whether you will actually use them before buying is also recommended.

I would also plead: shop as local as possible, and support independent stores. We all bemoan the lack of choice, the rise of big box stores and the demise of the independent store. Yet when we buy something, the temptation is often to choose the cheapest option, rather than the most ethical.

Remember, when we buy things, we vote with our money for the companies we want to support and the kind of future we want to see.

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping

I’ve tried to feature stores that have a range of products, rather than just one or two offerings. This list is only as good as my personal experience and the feedback and recommendations I receive. If you know of a store I should add to this list – please tell me!

The most zero waste option is always to buy from a physical store rather than to purchase online, where the option exists. The next best option is to choose the most local online store to you. Etsy is a handmade marketplace and is a great place to find handmade produce bags, reusable bags and other crafted items, and to support local producers.

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, Australia

Biome Eco Store

An online store (with stores in Brisbane) that isn’t exclusively plastic-free or zero waste but with a very high proportion of zero waste products. They do have a dedicated “No Waste and Plastic Free” section, and also ship their products without using plastic.

Great for: stainless steel and glass lunchboxes and containers, water bottles, reusable straws, icy pole moulds, cutlery, glass jars, bamboo dental care, and lots more.

W: biome.com.au

Delivery: Australia (Free Delivery over $130); international delivery at cost

Shop Naturally

An online store (with pickup from their warehouse available in NSW) is an online health and wellbeing store with a fair range of plastic-free products in bamboo and stainless steel, and BPA-free silicone.

Great for: water bottles, bamboo kitchenware, glass food storage, popsicle moulds and ice cube trays.

W: shopnaturally.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (free shipping starts at $100 spend and minimum spend increases with weight and postcode).

Flora & Fauna

Flora & Fauna is a vegan, cruelty-free and eco-friendly online store selling everything from fashion to homewares, dental care to reusables. Not everything in their store is zero waste or even plastic-free, but they do have a range of options spread across their categories. They also sell some unusual products including copper water bottles.

W: floraandfauna.com.au

Delivery: Worlwide. Austalia: $6.95 for orders up to $50.00, free delivery over $50. Some smaller items have free shipping with no minimum spend. New Zealand: shipping from $10 via DHL. Worldwide shipping from $15 via DHL.

Dandelion Eco Store

An online health and wellbeing store based in Perth, WA (with pickup available from the Growers Green Farmers Market, South Fremantle on Sundays). Rachel has a growing collection of stainless steel and plastic-free food storage and food preparation containers.

Great for: plastic-free food storage solutions including lunchboxes, water bottles, other reusables.

W: dandelionecostore.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (Free shipping to Perth metro over $50; $15 flat rate shipping for Australia-wide metro with spends up to $299; free shipping Australia-wide metro for spends over $300; rural Australia shipping calculated by weight and postcode).

Urban Revolution

An online eco-store based in Perth with a range of plastic free items and reusables and a big focus on natural and compostable options, that ship all parcels with reused materials and avoids plastic where possible.

W: urbanrevolution.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (delivery calculated by weight; local pickup available)

Ecolosophy

An online eco-store with a range of plastic free items and reusables, that ship all parcels without plastic tape or packaging.

W: ecolosophy.com.au

Delivery: Australia only ($9.95 under $150, free delivery over $150)

Going Green Solutions

An online store based in Melbourne (with local pickup available from Hurstbridge, Melbourne) with two main categories: green catering & packaging; and eco home & lifestyle. Has a broad range of products with some less-commonly found items including make-up refills.

W: goinggreensolutions.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (free delivery over $100 if less than 3kg; heavier orders calculated by weight; local pickup available)

The Source Bulk Foods

As the name suggests, The Source Bulk Foods are predominantly a food retailer. They are passionate about zero waste living and reducing plastic though, and have a number of reusables for sale on their website or at their 33 stores across Australia including beeswax wraps, produce bags, Planet Box lunchboxes and water bottles.

W. thesourcebulkfoods.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (from $9.95; price dependent on postcode and weight of order)

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, USA and Canada

Life Without Plastic

An online store dedicated to offering products that are plastic-free, this store has everything you might need (and no doubt, plenty you don’t!) for living a plastic-free and zero waste lifestyle. All of the products are made with stainless steel, glass and wood.

W: lifewithoutplastic.com

Delivery: Flat Rate Shipping to North America & Canada (excluding Hawaii & Alaska); International Delivery at cost.

Mighty Nest

An online store with a focus on natural, organic and non-toxic products, with lots of glass, stainless steel and non-plastic options.

W: mightynest.com

Delivery: USA (free delivery over $50 except Alaska, Hawaii and US Territories), Australia and Canada (delivery at cost)

The Ultimate Green Store

This isn’t a plastic-free or zero waste store as such, and there are no dedicated categories. There are lots of natural products and recycled materials, and the range is huge. The store offers bamboo homewares, recycled glass products and a small selection of reusables. You won’t find specialist zero waste products here but it is helpful for the basics. They also have a big range of organic natural clothing.

W: theultimategreenstore.com

Delivery: USA only (except by special request)

Tiny Yellow Bungalow

A small eco-store based in Athens, Georgia (local pickup is also available) dedicated to zero waste living, which also sells a small number of vintage items.

Great for: vintage and arty zero waste items, and reusables.

W: tinyyellowbungalow.com

Delivery: USA (price per order value; orders over $100 cost a flat rate $15), International ($26 for orders under $150, $36 for orders over $150)

Wild Minimalist

A small zero waste online store based in San Rafael, California which also sells a small number of vintage items. They are committed to packaging items plastic-free, and use recyclable materials where possible.

W: wildminimalist.com

Delivery: USA and Canada (shipping calculated at checkout; free standard delivery for orders over $75 to the Continental U.S. & Canada)

NU Grocery (Canada)

An online zero waste store with a growing collection of zero waste products under five categories. They also ship their products completely plastic-free and all packaging is fully recyclable.

W: nu-grocery.myshopify.com

Delivery: Canada only ($10, free delivery on orders over $85)

PAREdown Home (Canada)

An online zero waste store with a small range of products, most of which are plastic-free.

W: paredownhome.com

Delivery: Worldwide, no prices listed.

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, UK and Ireland

A Slice of Green

The sister site of Green Tulip (listed below), A Slice of Green products are focused on waste minimization and the mantra “reduce-reuse-recycle”. Not all products are plastic-free, but the emphasis is on reusables and sustainability. Focussed on food preparation, storage and transport.

W : asliceofgreen.co.uk

Delivery: UK (free delivery over £30, costs £2.95 under £30), international delivery at cost (on request)

Green Tulip

An ethical gifts website with 6 core values: organic, natural, British, recycled, sustainable and fair trade. Their sister site A Slice of Green focuses on food-based reusables, but Green Tulip has plenty of sustainable alternatives to conventional products including garden, wellbeing and recycled glass.

W: greentulip.co.uk

Delivery: UK (free delivery over £30, costs £2.95 under £30), international delivery at cost (on request)

Boobalou

Boobalou is a small UK company working to reduce household waste, with a huge focus on family-friendly reusables. There are four main categories: eco lady, eco baby, eco home and eco living. Whilst not everything is plastic-free, the majority is, and all of the products are more eco-friendly than conventional alternatives.

Great for: anyone with babies, young kids and families.

W: boobalou.co.uk

Delivery: UK (free delivery over £50, costs £2.85 under £50), International (£6.85 flat rate; large orders at cost)

Less Plastic

This small online store is committed to promoting the plastic-free way of life, and all products are designed to live without (or with less plastic). Most products are for food prep, storage and transport, with a real emphasis on stainless steel reusables.

W: lessplastic.co.uk

Delivery: UK (£3.50 under £50, free delivery over £50), international delivery on request

Eqo Living

A small online store and family business committed to offering eco-friendly, reusable products for living with less waste. Most products are for food preparation, storage and transport.

W: eqoliving.com

Delivery: UK only (£4.90 standard delivery under £100, free delivery over £100)

&Keep

Based in Dorset, this online homewares store stocks products chosen with the idea that they are bought “once” and will last forever. Lots of natural materials and fibres, and a selection of reusables.

W: andkeep.com

Delivery: UK only (Standard delivery £1.99, free delivery over £50

Ethical Superstore

This isn’t a plastic-free or zero waste store as such, and there is plenty of plastic! But there is such a vast array of products (it is definitely a superstore!) that there are some zero waste options. They have a home composting section, bamboo homewares, and a small selection of reusables. You won’t find specialist zero waste products here but it is helpful for the basics. They also have a big range of organic natural clothing.

W: ethicalsuperstore.com

Delivery: UK and Ireland only (free delivery over £50)

Natural Collection

Owned by the same company as Ethical Superstore, this online shop has many of the same products but they seem to run different offers, so it may be worth checking both.

W: naturalcollection.com

Delivery: UK and Ireland only (free delivery over £50)

Anything But Plastic

A small online eco store selling a limited range of plastic-free products including personal care items (dental floss, soap and make-up).

W: anythingbutplastic.co.uk

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, Europe

European stores are divided into two sections: those with English versions and those without. (The latter are presented as a list simply because I am unable to read them to give a more detailed account of their offering!)

Sinplastico (Spain)

A Spanish website (with English and French translations) that focuses on alternative products to plastic. There are five categories: kitchen, bath & body, home, kids & babies, and takeaway.

W : sinplastico.com

Delivery: Europe (Spain and Portugal €3-10 under €120, free over €120; France €10 under €120, free over €200; rest of Europe €15 under €120, €10 over €200)

Non-English Online Zero Waste Stores:

France:

Sans BPA
W: sans-bpa.com

Hakuna Tata – Boutique Zero Dechet
W: boutiquezerodechet.com

Czech Republik:

Econea
W: econea.cz

Germany:

Laguna
W: laguna-onlineshop.de

Monomeer
W: monomeer.de

Original Unverpackt
W: original-unverpackt.de

Plasno
W: plasno.de

Plasticarian
W: einfach-ohne-plastik.at

Zero Waste Laden
W: zerowasteladen.de

Zero Waste Shop
W: zerowasteshop.de

Greece

Sapontina
W: sapontina.gr

Netherlands:

Babongo
W: babongoshop.nl

Ecomondo
W: ecomondo.nl

Bag-Again NL
W: bag-again.nl

Younetics
W: younetics.nl

Now I’d love to hear from you! Please help make this list as useful as possible to as many people as possible! If you know of a store that’s missing, please let me know in the comments so I can add it to the list. If you have any experiences of these (or other) stores, please share away and let everyone know your thoughts – good and bad! Any other tips or alternatives to find products also welcome. Tell me what you think in the comments below!

Disclaimer: These companies have been included by me or recommended by my readers as great online stores to purchase zero waste or plastic-free products, based solely on their product offering, ethics and customer service. No store has paid me to be featured on this list. Whilst I have not personally shopped at all of these stores, I can recognise products that I own or recommend in their pages, and I trust the opinion of my readers. This post contains some affiliate links which means if you click a link and choose to purchase a product, I may be compensated a small amount at no extra cost to you. This in no way affects my recommendations as my priority is always you, my readers.

Changing the Story: Talking Rubbish on the Tedx Stage

Taking the stage at last year’s TedX Perth event has to be one of the highlights of the year. On behalf of the zero waste and plastic-free community, the opportunity to share the message about living with less waste with 1700 people was pretty mind-blowing.

From a personal perspective, talking in front of that many people was pretty mind-blowing too!

I never thought of myself as a public speaker. At school, if asked to speak in front of the class, I’d end up bawling until I was allowed to sit back down. (I’m sorry, classmates, for having to put you all through that.) And yes, this was in my teens.

When I first began writing this blog back in 2012 it was completely anonymous.

I’m not someone who loves the limelight.

My first public speaking opportunity came in 2013, when Plastic Free July asked me to talk for 5 minutes in front of 60 people. The only reason I said yes was because I felt that the message I had to share was more important than my personal fear of embarrassment/humiliation/self-doubt.

I remember pacing in the toilets beforehand, heart racing and sweaty palms, panicking about standing in front of all those people.

After that 5 minute talk, where I spoke too fast, flailed my arms wildly and trembled, a radio host who was watching asked me for a pre-recorded interview. I said no.

He approached me again as I was leaving. After some persuasion about how important the message was, I reluctantly agreed.

Then the next community group or organsiation asked. And the next.

And that is how this non-public speaker became a public speaker. Whenever I was asked to speak or present, I’d remember that the story and the cause is the most important thing, and I’d bite my lip and agree.

And in time, with practice, I got better. I learned to slow down. I learned not to panic. I felt more confident in myself, and in what I was talking about.

I still flail my arms uncontrollably! Something to work on ;)

Now, I love to speak to others. It’s a way to amplify the message. I can do what I do, and tell all my friends, but the impact is limited. When I start to speak to people who don’t know me and share my story with them, that’s when the message really starts to spread.

If you’re passionate about the plastic-free life and the zero waste movement (or something else!), then I encourage you to get out there, into your community, and spread the word. You don’t have to take the stage at a big event (at least, not at first)! I have spoken to groups as small as 15 people.

The opportunities are everywhere: at your local library, the farmers’ market, your workplace, a local school or community group. Your message is too important not to share.

You don’t have to be a public speaker. I wasn’t. You don’t have to love standing in front of an audience, or have confidence in spades. I didn’t. I’m just someone with a message I want to share. That’s all you need to get out there and make a difference.

Now I’d love to hear from you! If you get a chance to watch the video, I’d love to hear what you think! And if you’ve tips for keeping flailing arms at bay, I’m all ears ;) Have you personally had any experiences of speaking in public? Is it something that you embrace, or that you dread? Is it something you’d like to do in 2017? How have you managed to conquer your nerves? Do you have tips for anyone starting out? Is it something you still struggle with? Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Finding Solutions to Plastic Pollution (How You Can Help)

One person can make a difference. I believe this, and I embrace it wholeheartedly. Knowing that my actions matter, that is what empowers and motivates me to strive to do a little better every day.

Whilst one individual can have an impact, when individuals get together… well, that’s when change really begins to happen! Collectively, our impact can be amplified. That’s what a movement is – a group of people, working together for the same outcome.

Plastic pollution and over-consumption of resources are both massive, complex issues. The problem isn’t going to be solved just because I no longer have a rubbish bin, or can fit my waste into a glass jar. It’s not going to be solved if 10,000 of us can all fit our waste into a glass jar, either.

It’s going to be solved when we all work together to share ideas, apply pressure to decision-makers and organizations, and offer solutions!

If you’d like to do more, and be part of a movement, here are some options. Whether it’s getting out into your local community, volunteering, joining a campaign, learning more or donating to an organization doing great work, there are plenty of possibilities. If you see something you like, see if there is something similar in your local area… or start your own group!

If you have any others you’d like to add, please let me know in the comments below : )

Citizen Science + Litter Apps

litter-apps-and-citizen-science-treading-my-own-path

Litter apps are a simple way to add any litter you pick up to a national or international database. Citizen science in action! Simply take a photo of what you pick up, and record the location, litter type and brand. This data is collected to identify the most commonly found brands and products, and problem hotspots. The data can be used to work with companies and organisations to find more sustainable solutions, and to influence politicians, councils and other decision-makers to make change.

– Litterati (US and Worldwide)

Litterati describe themselves as a community that’s identifying, mapping, and collecting the world’s litter. Based in America, they track plastic and other litter anywhere in the world.

Litterati App (iPhone only)

Website: www.litterati.org

– Marine Debris Tracker (US and Worldwide)

An American Debris Tracker app that collects marine debris data from all over the world, including 1200 locations in the USA.

Marine Debris Tracker App for Android / Marine Debris Tracker App for iPhone

Website: www.marinedebris.engr.uga.edu/

– Marine LitterWatch (Europe)

Monitors beach litter in Europe. The app was developed by the European Environment Agency to help aid data gathering in coastal areas.

Marine LitterWatch App for Android / Marine Litterwatch App for iPhone

Website: www.eea.europa.eu

– Tangaroa Blue (AU)

Whilst not an app, Tangaroa Blue’s Australian Marine Debris Database is the most comprehensive collection of marine debris data in Australia. All data can be submitted via this AMDI submission form: since 2004 over 2million pieces of debris have been recorded.

Website: www.tangaroablue.org

Litter Clean-Ups

beach-treading-my-own-path

Sure, it’s possible to just go outside your front door any time, and pick up litter. In fact, that is what many of these organisations encourage. But there’s also something nice about getting together with a group of like-minded individuals and making a much bigger impact.

– Responsible Runners (AU)

An Australian initiative to get runners and walkers clearing up litter. They organize weekly clean-up events around the country involving 30 minute litter picking, and have picked up 21 tonnes of rubbish to date. All rubbish is recorded, and the data is submitted to Tangaroa Blue Australian Marine Debris Database (see above).

Website: www.responsiblerunners.org

– Take 3 For The Sea (AU and worldwide)

An Australian movement that encourages everyone to simply take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, river, or anywhere else. As well as running school education programs, they also offer a Guardian program for local groups to establish, and use social media to spread the #take3forthesea message.

Website: www.take3.org.au

– Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Campaign (AU)

In 2016, Sea Shepherd Australia announced a new marine debris campaign which involves organizing beach and river clean-up events, community engagement and education. At present this appears to be specific to Australia.

Website: www.seashepherd.org.au

– Ocean Conservancy (US)

An American not-for-profit organisation that promotes science-based solutions to protect the ocean. Ocean Conservancy organises the annual International Coastal Cleanup event (a global event), and helps individuals organise their own beach and river cleanups for other times of the year.

Website: www.oceanconservancy.org

– Two Hands Project (AU)

Two Hands Project embodies the spirit of international Clean Up Days, but asks – why not use your two hands and 3o minutes of your time to clean up on ANY day of the year? They occasionally run organized beach clean-ups, and offer secondary school education programs.

Website: www.twohandsproject.org

– Keep Australia Beautiful (AU)

Keep Australia Beautiful works towards a litter-free environment by running grass-roots programs in every state and territory in Australia. They run “Keep Austrlia Beautiful Week” annually, and assist in organising cleanup and other community events.

Website: www.kab.org.au

Campaigning

campaiging

Organisations often work on specific campaigns. Campaigns work towards a specific goal, such as changing legislation on particular issues, often by raising awareness and gaining the support of the public to apply pressure to decision-makers.

– Plastic Soup Foundation (NL)

Plastic Soup Foundation is a campaigning and advocacy group working towards eliminating plastic pollution from our oceans. Based in the Netherlands, they work on a number of campaigns including Reach for the Zero, Beat the Microbead and Ocean Clean Wash.

Website: www.plasticsoupfoundation.org

– Marine Conservation Society (UK)

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is a UK ocean protection charity. They campaign on a number of issues including banning the mass release of balloons and sky lanterns, microbeads and clearer labelling for wet wipes (to prevent them being flushed down the loo). They also run a Plastic Free June fundraising challenge.

Website: www.mcsuk.org

– Surfrider Foundation (US and Worldwide)

Surfrider Foundation is a campaigning organisation dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches. Beginning in the USA 30 years ago, Surfrider Foundation has grown to 18 countries around the world, including Australia. Among other ocean-realted campaigning, they support local, regional, state and national campaigns on plastic pollution.

Website: www.surfrider.org
Surfrider Australia Website: www.surfrider.org.au

– Surfers Against Sewage (UK)

A UK environmental charity protecting the UK’s waves, oceans and beaches. Surfers Against Sewage campaign against marine litter, and recent campagins include “No Butts on the Beach”, “Return to Offender” (which has to be my favourite) and “Think Before You Flush“.

Website: www.sas.org.uk

– Story of Stuff (US)

The Story of Stuff project began as a series of education movies about the environmental impacts of “stuff”. As well as education, they now run campaigns fighting plastic pollution, including banning bottled water and banning the microbead.

Website: www.storyofstuff.org

– The Last Plastic Straw (US)

The Last Plastic Straw campaigns to get businesses to only give out straws on demand, and to use fully biodegradable alternatives to plastic straws. They also raise awareness of plastic pollution.

Website: www.thelastplasticstraw.org

Challenges

calendar

Collective challenges are a great way to raise awareness and build momentum on an issue, as well as creating community and inspiring further action.

– Plastic Free July (AU and Worldwide)

Plastic Free July is a month-long challenge to refuse and avoid single-use plastic. It’s what got me started on my plastic-free journey and has expanded from a local campaign with just 30 participants to a global initiative that spans almost 200 countries.

Website: www.plasticfreejuly.org

Marine Research and Education

Ocean Plastic Research Treading My Own Path

Expeditions and research bring in the real scientific data, and allow us to understand the wider impacts of plastic pollution. It is this knowledge that raises awareness and drives campaigns, education and action.

– 5 Gyres (US)

Founded in 2008, 5 Gyres is a non-profit organisation raising awareness about plastic pollution through science, art, education and adventure. They have been involved with campaigns including the “ban the microbead” campaign, and run programs and expeditions.

Website: www.5gyres.org

– Algalita (US)

Founded in 1994 by Captain Charles Moore, the man who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Algalita have pioneered the study of plastic pollution in the marine environment. They focus on research, education and action, and lead marine expeditions.

Website: www.algalita.org

Umbrella Groups and Coalitions

lighthouse

Umbrella organizations provide resources and offer an identity to smaller organisations, whilst building a sense of community and inclusiveness. Umbrella organisations allow members to share resources and amplify their message, meaning increased effectiveness.

– Plastic Pollution Coalition (US)

The Plastic Pollution Coalition is a global alliance of individuals, organizations, businesses and policymakers working toward a world free of plastic pollution. Founded in 2009 and now with more than 400 member organisations (you can find a list of current members here), they provide education, scientific research and solutions for both individuals and organisations. The Education page is a wealth of useful information : )

Website: www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org

Now I’d love to hear from you! Are they any great organisations I’ve missed off the list? Any campaigns or groups I failed to mention? Any I’ve mentioned here that you are already involved with? Any that are completely new to you? Do you work with local groups in your area? Do you know about great work being done at grass roots level? I love to hear about others making a difference and creating positive impact so share away! Any other thoughts or comments, I’d love to hear those too, so please tell me in the space below!

It’s Not About Perfect. It’s About Better.

I receive several requests a week from companies telling me how much they think my readers would love to hear about their fabulous (their words, not mine) products. Some even offer to pay me. I turn them all down.

As someone with a passion for zero waste, plastic-free living and minimalism, I believe in practicing what I preach. I’m not interested in plastic-packaged anything, or overseas shipping, or “stuff” in general, and I’m pretty sure you’re not interested in me spruiking it, either.

I’m proud that I keep this website advertisement-free, and I don’t intend to change that by running sponsored content.

But a few weeks ago I received this email, and it made me look twice.

I am writing from our company Tipsy Oil. We are the world’s first company to collect, wash and reuse wine bottles for bottling our Western Australian grown extra virgin olive oil. Recycling the bottles actually costs more currently than buying brand new bottle but we’re not a company that aims to become a cash cow!

Additional to this, obviously one bottle of olive oil in a recycled bottle won’t save the world, but Tipsy definitely makes consumers slightly more aware about recycling. As a very young company, we are hoping to engage writers like yourself to review or post about our vision to gain a greater awareness of our product and ultimately help with the problem of pollution.

It piqued my interest.

Firstly, I love the fact that they use glass over plastic, and not new glass either: they re-use wine bottles – because they think it is the right thing to do. (I’ve talked often about how glass in Western Australia is not recycled by crushed into road base, so this has particular local relevance.)

Secondly, I love that they are a Western Australian company (based only a few suburbs away from me), making Western Australian olive oil using Western Australian grown olives.

It makes no sense to me that shops here continue to sell Italian and Greek olive oil when we produce our own oil in Australia. Nothing against Italian and Greek olive oil of course – if I lived in Italy or Greece that is what I would use! But why ship bottles of oil across the globe when we already have it here?

I also love the fact that they say “one bottle of oil in a recycled bottle won’t save the world, but…”. I think lots of companies DO think that their product will save the world, and I found this quite refreshing. As for the “but…” – to me, this says we know we’re not perfect, but we’re doing what we can.

But of course – I was suspicious ; ) I’ve learned the hard way that just because somebody says their product is green, that doesn’t mean that it is! I emailed back. Where were they sourcing these bottles? Can customers return the bottles for refills or re-use?

I received this lovely email response:

Returning the used olive oil bottles is an excellent idea and something that I just added to our Tipsy Trello board! Thanks so much for the idea!

The recycled bottles are currently sourced from Gargarno’s restaurant in Nedlands, Perth, WA. As we grow bigger and start gathering bottles from other restaurants, we hope to have a special label for each restaurant to show where the bottles came from. But right now there is still so much to organise!

I absolutely agree with your comments around plastic, and as we mature as a business we hope to move to 100% recycled goods. However, I am sure you can imagine the difficulties with even getting a product to the market!

To give you some back story, I started Tipsy back in 2014 at the ripe age of 23 with the vision of creating a fully recycled bottle company with staff that loved the company and at the same time work with local companies instead of mega corporations. Now 25, I realise that it’s a lot harder than just writing the idea down on a piece of paper. We’ve run into things like bureaucracy, labels that absorb oil, Anthracnose, and printers that don’t know where the centre of the label is. So I hope you can give us some time to get out recycled act together!

Also, just got a really great idea about using metal caps for Tipsy Bottles just then!

In fact, we had such a great email conversation afterwards that we’re planning to meet soon to talk about all things sustainability. I like their vision, their openness, their transparency – and their willingness to hear new ideas.

That was the best thing for me – being able to start the conversation, plant a seed and try to inspire change. They did send me a bottle of their oil: I insisted there was no plastic packaging, and the parcel looked like this:

Treading My Own Path Tipsy Oil Plastic Free July

No plastic packaging (the envelope is 100% paper, including the padding) but it came with a pourer in a plastic bag! The bottle has a plastic lid, but Tipsy Oil are looking into replacing the plastic with metal in future.

The padded envelope is filled with recycled paper, so plastic-free. I hope that this is how they will choose to send other products in future.

As for the pourer, I would say it is unnecessary, but I have been meaning to get one since the bottle lid on refillable macadamia oil bottle split into two. Still, I’m not sure they should send them as standard. The small plastic bag?! Gah!

The bottle lid itself is plastic – I hope as a result of our conversation this is something that is going to change.

Let me make one thing clear. I won’t be buying this product myself, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. I can buy olive oil in bulk from my local store, but I’ve gone one step further this year and picked and pressed my own olives. (Coincidentally, I filled old wine bottles!)

That said, I get that not everyone is going to want to bottle their own oil. Maybe you don’t have olive trees in your area. Maybe you don’t have access to an olive press. Maybe you simply can’t be bothered! (And that’s okay – we don’t all have the time or inclination to do everything ourselves.)

Treading My Own Path Picking and Pressing Olive Oil

The olive picking dream team (minus my husband, who took the photo), the olives we collected and our portion of the pressed olive oil : )

I also get that not everyone has access to a bulk store, and not all bulk stores sell olive oil. There need to be alternatives. What excited me about Tipsy Oil was the reminder it gave me that there are companies out there trying to do the right thing, and create positive change.

Where we can, I think it is important to support them. In particular, the whole experience brought home to me three important points:

It is important to start where people are at.

I could wax lyrical about how great picking my own olives is, or how wonderful my local bulk store is, but for many of you, that would not be helpful. All of us are on different journeys, and have different amounts of time, energy and patience available.

We may not be able to buy in bulk or pick our own, but we can all look for local suppliers, businesses and stores who are trying to do the right thing.

We can all ask questions and make conscious choices. And we can all champion the people and companies we find who are trying to do the right thing.

Whether we need what they are selling/would use it ourselves or not, I think there is an importance in spreading the word of those trying to make the world a better place.

Let’s start conversations.

Had I not had the conversation with Tipsy Oil, they might not have thought about switching their lids from plastic to metal.

They might not have thought about looking into a bottle return scheme for customers.

These are small things, but they still have an impact. It all makes a difference. Who is to say that other companies will see what these guys are doing and feel inspired to take action themselves? Actions are like ripples, and we have more influence than we think.

Simply asking questions, providing feedback, or even having a chat with the lady at the checkout about the choices we make all have the ability to spark change. Never underestimate the influence you have, nor your power to make a difference.

It’s not about perfect. It’s about doing what we can.

I truly wish that bulk stores were an option for everybody, but the reality is, they aren’t. Instead of thinking that because we can’t do everything, there is no point in doing anything: we should all do what we can.

Imagine if every single person on the planet committed to reducing their waste by just 10%? Think of the impact that would have!

Imagine if all of the people in Perth who don’t have access to bulk stores chose to purchase locally produced olive oil in re-used bottles – think of the carbon emissions and virgin glass we could save!

In my version of a perfect world, we would all shop at bulk stores, there would be no single use packaging, and the world would be a lovelier place. I definitely believe that this is something we can work towards: we can strive for perfection, but we also need to be realistic.

Let’s not let perfection stand in the way of better. Let’s start where people are at. Let’s make better choices ourselves, start conversations and begin new dialogues, and support those that try to make a difference.

It’s not about being perfect. It’s about doing what we can.

Now it’s your turn to tell me what you think! Is there anything you have struggled with because it is not “perfect”? Do you ever feel disheartened because you can’t do everything? Have you made compromises that are still better than your old choices, and if so what are they? Have you found local suppliers to champion or begun to ask questions and start conversations? Have you ever had a company change its policy or look into changing it simply because of something you said, or wrote, or suggested? Have you ever stopped supporting a company you previously loved because they were NOT open to change? Have you ever let “perfect” stand in the way of “better”? Do you have any other thoughts, questions or snippets of wisdom to add? I love hearing from you so please leave me a comment below!

Can You Live Plastic-Free without Bulk Stores?

One of the most common challenges I hear from people who would like to embrace plastic-free or zero waste living, is that they don’t live near a bulk store. Access to bulk stores definitely makes plastic-free living infinitely easier – but that doesn’t mean that without them, it’s impossible.

In fact, there are still plenty of things that you can do to reduce your plastic footprint, wherever you live, wherever you shop and however busy you are.

Here’s a list of my top 8 (as always, feel free to add your own ideas to the comments below).

Don’t make the mistake of doing nothing because you cannot do everything.

This is so important! Just because there isn’t a bulk store near you, that doesn’t mean that you should give up before you begin.

Remember that every single piece of plastic that has ever been made is still in existence today, so every single piece of plastic you refuse is one less piece entering our environment.

We just need to start where we are, with what we have, and do what we can. Even if you can only refuse a few things, or make a couple of changes, it all counts. If we all did the best we could, think how much better the world would be!

Don’t stress about what you can’t change, look for what you can change.

Eat more fresh vegetables!

Apologies for sounding like your Nan here, but seriously – food packaging accounts for such a significant amount of the waste we produce, and one of the easiest ways to reduce this is to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.

Look for unpackaged fruits and vegetables, or if you still need to buy in packaging, try to choose the bigger packs (there will be less plastic overall).

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are a great high-carb alternative to pasta and rice, and are easy to find plastic-free.

If you don’t know how to cook something, look on the internet for simple recipes. This is where I’m going to offer different advice from your Nan – you do not need to boil everything for 30+ minutes! Plenty of veggies can be roasted (try carrots, broccoli and cauliflower), stir-fried, broiled, baked, sautéed – or eaten raw.

Zero Waste Vegetables Plastic Free July Treading My Own Path

My local veg box delivery comes mid-week and direct to my door (convenience shopping with a difference) and it’s an easy way for me to get produce that’s plastic-free and locally grown.

Also, many veggies can be frozen once cooked. If you live in a small household and don’t want to eat an entire pumpkin this week, chop into cubes, roast it as usual and freeze what you don’t need. Other vegetables, such as leeks and broccoli, can be blanched for 1-3 minutes, and then frozen.

This guide lists how to freeze a number of vegetables and might be a helpful starting point.

Bring your own reusable bags – not just your main shopping bags

As well as your own shopping bags, bring reusable produce bags for all your loose produce items, and a cloth bag for any bread you need.

You can find produce bags available for sale online (made of cloth or mesh, some pre-labelled and others plain) – or you can make your own using your own fabric or even old net curtains!

Fruit and Veggie Produce Bags Treading My Own Path

Reusable produce bags are a great way to buy loose products at the store without needing to take those pesky plastic bags!

If you forget, and you’re buying too many items to simply pop them in your trolley loose, you can often find paper mushroom or potato bags so use these as an alternative to plastic.

Look for packaging in glass, cardboard and paper, and adapt where you can

When I first started out with plastic-free living, I continued to shop at the supermarket. Whilst I found most of the pre-prepared products were packaged in plastic, I found many wholefoods and single ingredients that were packaged in glass and cardboard. For example, in my local store I could buy pasta and couscous in cardboard packaging, as well as oats and rice, but I could not buy quinoa or bulgar wheat.

I began buying more oats over breakfast cereal; eating porridge for breakfast and using more oats in baking. In glass jars I found passata so I began to buy this rather than chopped tomatoes in Tetra-Paks (which are difficult to recycle) or tins (which are plastic-lined and contain BPA).

After all, passata is just chopped tomatoes that have been blended! (Later I discovered that simply using fresh tomatoes and quickly chopping saved packaging dilemmas altogether.)

How far you take this will depend on whether you have dietary restrictions or fussy eaters in your household, but even one change is a step in the right direction.

Remember, you can still buy bulk within the store

I’m not talking about buying huge quantities of food you probably won’t eat here, I‘m referring to choosing one product over individual portions and single serves. Even if the bigger one still comes in packaging, it will be far less than all those individual portions added together.

Rather than buying individual pots of yoghurt, buy a 1kg tub (or bigger) and split into smaller containers at home.

Rather than snack portions of raisins or crackers, buy a big pack and divide up yourself.

Rather than buying individual slices of cheese, or grated cheese, buy a big block and chop or grate at home (tip – you can freeze cheese so there’s no reason why you can’t buy a big block and freeze what you won’t use straightaway for later).

Aside from saving the plastic, you’ll save a huge amount on your grocery bill. Check the price per kilo of the bulk items versus the “convenience” items and you’ll find that convenience comes at a price – and you won’t just be saving the environment with these choices!

Supermarket or not – bring your own containers!

It’s possible to take your own containers to the counters at the supermarket or your local stores: the butcher, fishmonger, cheese shop or deli. Make sure they are clean, and explain why you’re doing it as you hand your containers over.

Confidence is everything – act like you’ve done it a million times before, and it is the most normal thing to do in the world!

If you’re unsure that they will be accepted, or feel really nervous, you can always phone the store in advance and ask if they’d be happy to take your own clean containers (be sure to tell them why).

You may find the odd place that isn’t willing to help, but most are happy to support this kind of shopping. If they have restrictions, find out what they are. (They may be happy to use containers for pre-cooked products, but not raw, for example. They may be happy to fill your own containers, but only if you drop them off by a certain time, or on a certain day.)

Reusable containers. Simply take to the shop and ask the server to put your goodies directly inside!

Reusable containers. Simply take to the shop and ask the server to put your goodies directly inside!

If a staff member is unwilling to comply, it may be that you simply need to check with the manager (they may be fearful of losing their job, and a quick conversation can sort this out).

If the store is definitely against it, you could push higher up if they are a chain or have a Head Office, or simply take your business elsewhere. If you do receive a “no”, keep it in mind and try again in a few months – something may have changed!

If places aren’t willing to comply, there may be the option of the staff wrapping your item in paper and you putting the paper-wrapped product into your sealed container yourself. It’s always worth asking if they have paper behind the counter.

Refuse single-serve and single-use items

“Refusing” is such a big part of the plastic-free living journey, and we can remove so much plastic from the environment just by making this simple choice. Refusing bottled water and carrying our own bottle and refilling from the tap; choosing to dine in rather than get takeaway or bringing our own containers; refusing straws; refusing individual sachets of sauce, butter or those tiny little portions of milk… it all makes a difference.

Carrying your own water bottle or coffee cup and a reusable straw is a great alternative if you’re often out, and a great way to start conversations. Simply asking at the cafe if you can have a splash of milk directly into your tea or a little bit of butter cut directly from the block rather than the single-serve portions is a surprisingly easy way to avoid plastic and make a point.

Go outside and pick up litter

No matter where you live, what shops are available to you or what your budget is, or how much time you have to spare, you can do this. Simply go out of your front door and onto your street with a bag, and pick up all the plastic litter you come across.

You may prefer to go to the beach or alongside a river, if you have one close by, but wherever you choose to go, I guarantee there will be some litter. Whether you opt for a 2 minute beach clean, simply commit to pick up 3 things, or decide to take a 30 minute walk and see what you come across, it all makes a difference.

Pick up any plastic items that you find, and then dispose of them responsibly. You’ll be stopping that plastic getting ingested by wildlife or making its way to the ocean, and making your local environment a more pleasant place to be. You’ll probably feel a lot more determined to avoid single-use items afterwards, too!

Treading My Own Path 30 Minute Litter Pick Up Litterati Take3 July 2016

I picked this up in 30 minutes simply by walking around my local streets.

Whatever you can do, you really must know that what you do makes a difference. The smallest actions can have the biggest impacts, and choosing just one thing to change is better than changing nothing at all.

The planet, the turtles and the plastic-free community; we will all thank you for it. Don’t let a lack of local bulk stores stand in your way. It really doesn’t matter how far you take this.

What matters is that you try.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Are you struggling to find bulk stores near you? What items do you struggle to find without plastic packaging? What have been your biggest dilemmas and challenges? What have been your best successes and greatest a-ha moments? What are you currently working towards changing? Any other suggestions for those who live far from bulk options? If you are lucky enough to have bulk options near you, are there still items that you struggle with? Do you have any others that you’d add to this list? Any other thoughts or comments? Please tell me what you think in the comments below!

Plastic Free {Bicarb Free} DIY Deodorant – for Sensitive Skin

I love my homemade deodorant. I first tried it back in 2012 when I was still a little skeptical about DIY concoctions (if I’m honest, I thought they were just for hippies). What made me convert?

The fact it actually worked.

That’s all we want from a deodorant, really. Sure, we don’t want chemicals and excess packaging – but it has to work, right?! There are plenty of natural deodorants on the market, but most are very expensive, don’t smell great and don’t actually work against body odour very effectively, either.

Plus very few have completely plastic-free packaging.

The deodorant I’ve been using since 2012 is a super simple recipe, and all the ingredients are edible (except the essential oil). There’s no heating or melting involved, just a little mixing, which suits my laziness when it comes to these things.

The ingredients are 1 tbsp bicarb, 4 tbsp cornflour (or arrowroot / tapioca flour) and 2-3 tbsp coconut oil. The coconut oil depends on the ambient temperature – you’ll need less in summer and more in winter. You want a paste. Mix in a jar and add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. To apply, get a small amount on your fingertips and rub in. (You can find the recipe here.)

This recipe has been serving me well for 4 years, but bicarb can be a skin irritant for some. It’s fine for me, but my husband reacts to it. I tried changing the ratio from 1:4 to 1:6 and even 1:8 bicarb:flour (note – the more you dilute it, the less effective it is) but the issue was the same. His skin became red, inflamed and sore and it took a few months for it to settle back down again.

Ever since then I’ve said I’ll experiment with a DIY non-bicarb deodorant. I don’t move very fast it seems!

But the good news is I have finally kept my word and made a bicarb free deodorant. Not only that, but I (and my husband) have tested it and can confirm that a) it works (hurrah!) and b) there have been no adverse skin reactions. Phew! I can also buy all the ingredients completely packaging-free.

For anyone else out there who struggles with super sensitive skin and cannot use bicarb deodorants, this recipe is for you. Give it a go.

It’s not quite as simple as just mixing some ingredients in a jar but it’s really not that much harder, promise. There’s some melting involved. Nothing complex – I like to keep things as simple as I can!

Final product: bicarb free DIY deodorant.

Bicarb free DIY deodorant.

TIP: I would also add: it’s not quite as effective as the bicarb version I use, and it works best applied to clean skin. Whilst the bicarb one can mask smells if reapplied, this one won’t!

Bicarb Free DIY Deodorant: Recipe

Ingredients:

1.5 tbsp grated beeswax
1 tbsp shea butter
4 tbsp coconut oil
4 tsp white kaolin clay
8 drops tea tree essential oil
8 drops cedarwood essential oil
10 drops lemon myrtle essential oil

A note about the ingredients:

Beeswax: beeswax is solid at room temperature (it melts at 62°C) so helps make the mix firmer. I used beeswax as it’s really local (my neighbour who lives 4 doors away produced this). The only other solid subsititue I can think of would be cacao butter so maybe next time I’ll give this a go as it would be a great alternative for vegans.

Shea butter: shea butter melts at 38°C so is more solid than coconut oil. It’s very moisturising and is thought be anti-inflammatory – which is good news for sensitive skin.

Coconut oil: this is a soft oil that melts at 25°C. It helps keep the deodorant soft so it can be rubbed into the skin. Coconut oil is also thought to have anti-bacterial properties.

Kaolin clay: kaolin clay is a white clay (bentonite clay has similar properties) that replaces bicarb and does a similar job. It absorbs liquid and neutralises bad smells. Clumping kitty litter is actually made of bentonite clay! There are other types of clay available but these are more expensive. I’ve heard that green clay is the most absorbant of them all so at some stage I’d like to try this… it’s in the queue ; )

Essential oils: I’m lucky enough to be able to buy refills (packaging free) so I have some flexibility with my choice. I chose tea tree oil as it is anti-bacterial and cedarwood as it is anti-inflammatory. Both also have strong smells and are often used in commercial natural deodorant recipes. I find both scents quite overpowering and not hugely pleasant so I used lemon myrtle (which I love!) to mask them. Lemon myrtle is an Australian bush scent with the most amazing smell! If you have limited choice, go for a single oil and choose one that you can use elsewhere. Tree tree oil is affordable, available in larger sizes (meaning less packaging overall) and great for cleaning too. (When choosing essential oils, it is important to read up on the properties, particularly if you are pregnant.)

Ingredients for making bicarb-free deodorant (for sensitive skin).

Ingredients for making bicarb-free deodorant (for sensitive skin).

Method:

Heat some water in a pan on the stove, and place a glass bowl over the pan. You don’t want to heat the oils directly as you’ll damage them. Add the beeswax to the bowl and stir until melted (I used a metal spoon as it’s easier to clean than wood).

Add the coconut oil and continue to melt, stirring occasionally. Once both are melted, add the shea butter and remove the bowl from the heat.

The shea butter should melt with the heat of the other two ingredients. You can place back on the heat if it needs some help but be careful of overheating shea butter as it can turn grainy. Stir to aid the melting process and to combine.

Add the clay 1 tsp at a time and whisk to incorporate. Once all 4 tsp have been added, leave to cool, whisking occasionally. It will begin to thicken after only a few minutes (less if your room is cold). Once you notice the thickening and there is no head radiating from the mix, add your essential oils to the mix and whisk in. If you add them when it’s still hot, you will lose all their beneficial properties!

Final product: bicarb free DIY deodorant.

Final product: bicarb free DIY deodorant.

Pour into a shallow jar with a wide neck or a tin, and leave to set. It will set into a paste that feels tacky and is easy to scoop with your fingers. (If you live in a very cold climate and find it too hard, you may like to add more coconut oil or less beeswax next time to get the right consistency, but it will soften with the warmth of your skin.)

Store with the lid on in a dark place. To apply, take a small amount with your fingertips and rub into your skin. will keep for ages.

Now tell me…are you going to make it?! If yes, I want to hear what you think! If not, why not? Have you ever tried making DIY deodorant before? What ingredients did you use and what success did you have (or not have)? What about other DIY skincare products – are you a fan or do you tend to put them in the “too-hard” basket? What are your simplest solutions to bathroom essentials? I love hearing your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!

5 Tips for Getting Started with Plastic-Free Living

Could you live your life without plastic? Your answer to this will depend on your lifestyle, where you live and the kinds of things you like to do, the places available to you to shop and how much time you have. Whatever your situation is, I guarantee that you will be able to live with a little less plastic!

How much you choose to eliminate is up to you, but it all makes a difference.

shopping trolley with plastic bags

If your grocery shopping looks like this, then just a few minor changes will make a huge difference!

Many people feel overwhelmed before they even start… and so they don’t start. Or they make a mistake early on and give up, deciding that plastic-free living is something for the “too hard” basket.

The truth is, there is no need to panic, or to feel overwhelmed, or to do nothing simply because we can’t do everything. Change takes time: months, or even years. There is no rule that says everything must be successful on the first day!

There is no all-or-nothing approach to living without plastic: it is a sliding scale, and we just need to find out where we are personally comfortable to sit on the scale. We need to find our happy place: where we’ve made changes we’re comfortable with.

With Plastic Free July approaching, I like to spend time reflecting on my journey and the lessons I learned. This year is my 5th year of supporting the challenge, and I love to share what I’ve experienced with those that are just starting out, or taking it to the next level. If that’s you, read on!

1. Don’t try to make ALL the changes on the first day

It’s unlikely that you are beginning your plastic-free living challenge with a completely empty pantry, fridge and bathroom cabinets. It’s far more likely that you’ll already have food in the cupboard and toiletries in the shower.

Even if they are overpackaged in plastic, this is a good thing (for now!). It means that you can make changes slowly, one by one: as items are used up you can replace them with plastic-free alternatives.

When I signed up to Plastic Free July in 2012, the first things I had to buy were milk, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables. Cheese and yoghurt came later. Pantry staples like pasta and rice came later again. Condiments and specialist ingredients were further down the track.

I had so many products stockpiled in the bathroom (that I hadn’t really been aware of) that I didn’t replace anything here for a few weeks. In fact, it took me 18 months to use up every plastic-packaged item in my bathroom. Plastic-free living is a marathon, not a sprint.

2. Don’t think about the money – for now

If you’ve signed up to Plastic Free July, then you’ve committed to 31 days of living without plastic. I’m going to challenge you for those 31 days, not to think about the money you spend on groceries or toiletries.

Or not to stress about it, at least – there’s enough to worry about for now without having extra stress!

Plastic-free living can seem expensive at first, because buying food from deli counters or Farmers markets or in glass often does cost more than their cheap, lesser quality, plastic-packaged supermarket counterparts. Wholefoods and vegetables are more expensive than processed junk food, but they are also far better for us.

For these 31 days, give yourself a free pass. Open your mind to the possibilities. If your budget is small, maybe tighten the belt somewhere else – reduce how much you spend on alcohol, movie tickets, eating out or takeaway coffee for the month.

The truth is, in time, you’ll decide which things are worth spending the extra money on, and which things you’re happier without. The things you buy will change as you start to find new places to shop with different products on offer.

You’ll adjust your shopping and eating habits, and most people who live plastic-free and zero waste lifestyles find they actually spend less. But again, it takes time: I think it took us around 6 months to notice that our food bill had reduced.

3. There’s no need to rush out and buy anything new

There’s something about starting a new challenge that makes us want to rush out and buy new “stuff”. It’s because changing habits is hard, and buying stuff is easy… and by making a new purchase, we can feel that we’ve started on the journey.

There are a few things in the plastic-free living “toolkit” that make things easier, but you do not need to go out and make a purchase on the first day. Or even the first week. Or even at all!

Before you buy anything, you need to figure out if you are going to use it, and if you have something suitable at home already that you can use or repurpose. Take your time so that you can make the best choices. (This especially applies if you are concerned about your groceries budget.)

Plastic Free Living Zero Waste

The only thing I purchased during my first Plastic Free July was a KeepCup (a reusable coffee cup), made from plastic.

A few weeks later I began to wonder whether buying a plastic cup for a plastic-free living challenge actually made sense (of course it doesn’t). I started thinking about combining plastic with hot liquids. I noticed the plastic started to absorb the coffee flavour.

Eventually I decided to replace it with a glass one (which I still have). Had I taken my time to think about it, I could have saved myself a wasted purchase.

4. Life from scratch…or not?

Homemade Sourdough Loaf Zero Waste Plastic Free Treading My Own Path

When I started down the plastic-free path, I had no intention of making my own bread or yoghurt or pickles. However, I began making all of these things, and for different reasons.

I used to buy bread at the Farmers Market, which meant I had to purchase my bread between 8am and 12noon on Saturdays. This meant that the rest of Saturday was put on hold until I’d secured the golden loaf of sourdough. Freshly baked artisan sourdough is delicious, but it’s also expensive. The Saturday morning stress and the money led me to ask myself the question – could I bake my own?

Once I tried baking sourdough for the first time, I was smitten. Freshly baked bread straight from the oven – there is no comparison. Now I have freshly baked bread whenever I need it, rather than just on Saturdays.

I started making yoghurt when I realised how simple it was. It involves heating up milk, cooling again, adding a small amount of culture (meaning old yoghurt) and placing somewhere warm for 12 hours (you can find yoghurt-making instructions here). Why was I buying it, carrying it home and taking the empty glass jars back when it took less time just to make my own?

I really enjoy cooking ,and baking, and making stuff from scratch. The more I’ve tried, the more I’ve got into it. But I don’t have time to do everything.

I don’t make my own pasta, for example. We can buy pasta from the bulk store, so why would I make my own? I tried making passata once, but it was so laborious I declared never again (or not for a long time). I don’t can my own tomatoes. I use the lazy person alternative – chopping up and using fresh tomatoes instead. It works well enough for me.

If something is impossible to find without plastic, or too expensive to buy, then I consider that I have three choices. Number 1: make my own. Number 2: find an alternative that I’m happy with. Number 3: go without.

Of course there is a fourth option – compromise – but I prefer to stick to one of the first three. That is enough choice for me.

5. The 80/20 Rule

I have a theory that 80% of everyday plastic is easy to eliminate, and the other 20% is the hard stuff. The easy things like plastic bags, plastic straws, takeaway packaging, disposable coffee cups, water and soft drinks bottles, multipacks, individual portions and serves can all be removed from our lives without too much stress.

It just takes a little bit of remembering, and maybe some practice, but not too much change.

The other 20% is the stuff that requires compromise, or bigger changes. Don’t worry about the hard 20%, at least not at first, and don’t give up on reducing the easy stuff just because you know the hard stuff will probably elude you.

Focus on the easy changes that have big wins.

Zero Waste Week Treading My Own Path Reuse 2015

There will always be people ahead of us on the journey, who have achieved things that we can only dream about. We can learn from them, and speed up our own journeys. The truth is, they all started at the same place.

They all started at the beginning.

They chose to make one change, and purchase one less plastic item, and then one more, and they just kept on going. Small steps, in the right direction. That is all it takes.

As always, now I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are you someone who has been on the plastic-free living or zero waste journey for a while, and if so, what tips would you give to someone starting out? Are you embracing the Plastic Free July challenge for the first time this year, and if so, do you have any concerns or questions? Which one of these lessons stands out most for you? Do you disagree with anything? Are there any other lessons that you’d like to add? Any other thoughts about plastic-free living or zero waste living, or the Plastic Free July challenge? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below!

Why Plastic Free July is Just as Important 5 Years On

Plastic Free July changed my life. A grand statement I know, but completely true. When I first signed up to the challenge of using no plastic in the month of July back in 2012, it was the start of a journey that I could never have imagined. (You can read about my experience after one year of plastic-free living here.)

From the very beginning it was about understanding that if I wanted the world to change for the better, I had to do something about it.

Not only that, but Plastic Free July showed me that this was possible: change was something that I could do. That we all can do. Starting today.

We all have the power to make a difference, and these little actions, repeated by millions of people, add up to mean real change. That’s why when July 2012 was over, I had to keep on going. There was no turning back.

Four years later, I’ve feel like I’ve got living plastic-free down to a fine art. It’s not something I really have to think about any more. Those new habits have become second nature.

I don’t have the dilemmas of the early days… I have new routines, and I’ve found solutions that I’m happy with. It’s taken time, and there have been many frustrations and learning opportunities along the way, but plastic-free is a way of life for me now.

Yet this year’s Plastic Free July challenge is just as important to be as it was back in 2012. Maybe even more so. Here’s why.

Plastic Free July 2016 Plastic Free Living Treading My Own Path

Plastic Free July is definitely about inspiring change on the individual level, but it is about far more than just us and our shopping habits. It about encouraging us to see things differently, to ask questions, to challenge ourselves (and others), and to find new ways of doing things.

It is about inspiring all of us, together, and creating a movement. That’s where the real change happens. Plastic Free July is the chance to get involved with something bigger than ourselves.

It is the chance to become part of a community with a united voice, saying that we want things to be different…and demanding change. Not only that, but demonstrating what that change looks like, and how it can be done.

I’m still very much a part of this movement, and every year, as July comes around again, I feel my excitement growing. I love the swell of energy that starts to build each June, as more people hear about Plastic Free July (and the idea of living plastic-free) for the first time, and latch onto the idea that they really can make a difference.

In 2012 I was there, feeling that it was possible but full of questions about where to start, or what to do, or how to do it. Now I feel like I’ve come through the other side, and I can share my story. So that’s what I do – I share my story. (I’ll be speaking at 6 events in Perth over the next month about plasitc-free living, so if you’re local please come and say hi! Details to follow.)

My message: yes, plastic-free living is possible, and you can do it do. I was just the same as you. There is nothing special or different about me. I simply believed in the ideals enough to work at it, and make it happen. It didn’t all happen at once; just one change at time. That’s all it takes.

You can share your story or your experiences too. Don’t feel like you don’t have a story to share, or that you’re just one person. That’s all any of us are.

There are many voices in the sphere, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more. There’s plenty of room, and we want to hear you! You don’t have to be a blogger, writer or public speaker. You don’t need a website or a social media feed. You just need a voice…and you already have one.

Talk to friends. Talk to family. Talk to work colleagues. Talk to your local newspaper.

What can you do this Plastic Free July? Can you bring people together and start the conversation? Do you have useful or relevant information that you can share? Is there a local event that you can get involved in?  Can you even organize your own – a plastic-free morning tea, or a beach or river clean?

Plastic Free July starts with making personal changes, but that is only the beginning. Let’s not stop there. We all care about the world we live in – that’s what inspired us to make changes in the first place.

We start with us, but let’s not stop with us. Let’s make this about more than ourselves. This Plastic Free July, wherever you are in your journey, can you do one thing that helps spread the word, or starts the conversation, or builds momentum in your community? Can you add another voice to the movement?

Jane Goodall said it best: what you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

You can find more information about Plastic Free July at their website: www.plasticfreejuly.org

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you been involved with Plastic Free July from the early days, or have you come on board more recently… or is this the first time you’ve heard of it? How has your involvement changed throughout the years? Are you still finding your way with making personal changes, or are you getting out into your community and sharing your story and spreading the word? What projects have you been involved with, and what positive impacts are they having? Are you thinking about the next steps, but are yet to take action? How has Plastic Free July (or living without plastic generally) changed the way you live? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!